Mental health meets music in Selena Gomez documentary

By Clara Faulkner, Operations Managing Editor

After much anticipation, Selena Gomez’s documentary My Mind and Me premiered on AppleTV+ on Nov. 4. The documentary chronicles six years of Selena Gomez’s life and presents the pop icon in an authentic and unvarnished light, giving the audience a fresh and empathetic perspective. Rather than appearing as a conventional documentary, My Mind and Me is a deep-dive interaction with the artist.

Because of the documentary, my admiration for Gomez has only grown. It was heartening to see a prominent public figure in the era of social media bring attention to issues of mental health and methods of dealing with anxiety. The documentary is the virtual equivalent of Gomez hugging her fans, and it has sparked meaningful dialogue across all forms of media.

Alek Keshishian, Selena’s longtime colleague and the director of the music video for her breakthrough single “Hands to Myself,” helms the documentary. After seeing Keshishian’s work on the 1991 Madonna documentary Truth or Dare, Gomez says she was determined to employ him to capture the tough times during her life.

The documentary follows Gomez’s journey of growth after leaving a mental health institution. She is eager to assist others and has mounting ambitions, and is “constantly searching for something her mind cannot see.” Gomez narrates her comeback to the mainstream after a prolonged hiatus, when she was still searching for her identity. 

The documentary’s excellence can be directly attributed to the adversity Gomez faced during its making. It demonstrates that she is not so much discarding her history but rather facing it head-on. Early on, Keshishian captures Gomez’s philanthropy in Kenya, revealing the unseen side of her fame.

Due to Gomez’s diagnoses of lupus and bipolar disorder, as well as the premature end to her Revival Tour after 55 performances, the filming of the highly-anticipated documentary stretched six years. After being hospitalized for lupus and mental health, Gomez did not know when or how to come back to the music world. Before she could produce songs or perform on stage, she had to recover both physically and psychologically.

Gomez reveals an endearingly fresh part of her persona by letting her guard down. Although she has been through a lot in the past six years, the documentary portrays a side of her that suggests the criticism over her American Music Awards performance and the release of her breakup hymn can be considered a manner of healing. Gomez changes the public’s perspective of her through the documentary and by revealing private details about her family life.

Gomez longs for the kind of intimacy her notoriety has not quite delivered. When compared to her present media engagement and her experience of feeling like a “product,” she thinks she has a higher calling to employ her influence—namely, communities that require aid. The reception Gomez garnered in Kenya underlined that she has found her own private haven despite the vitriol she faced in the last six years.

While in Kenya, Gomez explored what drives her beyond her fame: a desire to serve 

others. Multiple times during the film, the singer explores this passion by going back to her roots and opening up about her life. 

The singer shows no signs of guarding herself as she invites the camera team into her house and introduces them to her friends and family. Gomez takes the camera crew into her past by showing them her childhood home in Grand Prairie, Texas. She even showed them the place where she first found out she had been cast in the show “Barney.” 

For Keshishian, it was important to provide Gomez, now 30, with a secure environment because this documentary is the most fragile she has ever appeared to her audience.

In a more public light, the documentary focuses on Gomez’s return to the music industry with the release of her song “Lose You to Love Me,” which is considered her most melancholy composition. Not only did this song shatter records, but Gomez also received significant criticism over her performance. The documentary shows her response to the criticism that was published in the news, and it is unfiltered and intense.

Gomez had a panic episode while performing at the AMAs, a performance meant to mark her return to the spotlight. Gomez claims she is ready to return to performing after months of preparation, but this time it will be on her conditions. In the documentary, she laments, and the revelation of her difficulties is poignant. 

The singer’s mental health issues are laid bare for the audience, along with the truth of her hospitalization. This theme is explored extensively throughout the documentary, demonstrating its accessibility and honesty. 

Gomez’s documentary is heavily focused on maturation, and the singer says her watching experience was equally destructive. Gomez has stated she will not re-watch the documentary, since she is not the same person she used to be.

Although the documentary focuses mostly on Gomez’s past, viewers are also given a glimpse into the present. Gomez, the creator of the up-and-coming Rare Beauty makeup brand, is intent on releasing music with an emphasis on relationships to which the general public has not been exposed.

As she enters her thirties, Gomez is intent on beginning a new chapter, disclosing more about her history and embracing who she truly is now—someone who takes care of others and advocates for education. The actress uses her emotions throughout the documentary to convey not just the message of mental health awareness, but also spread the tale of a young woman learning to cope with adulthood. 

Throughout My Mind and Me, Gomez demonstrates she is doing more than fighting for her own survival; she is actively making a difference in the lives of those around her.